Col­lege face tough open­ing tie

Weekend Witness - - Sport - JONATHAN COOK

a school­boy team be­fore they move on, and then you have to start all over again, so it’s not easy to de­velop a team over time, but it’s just an­other chal­lenge that a coach faces,” Strud­wick said.

Col­lege tackle Port Elizabeth’s strong Grey High School line-up to­day at 3.30 pm. The red, black and white lost by one point to Grey at the Port Elizabeth school’s rugby fes­ti­val last year, so the chal­lenge to turn the ta­bles is up­per­most in the minds of the Col­lege team.

“Their coach is Rory Dun­can, who I played with dur­ing our era, and Grey is a very sim­i­lar THE Mar­itzburg Col­lege di­rec­tor of rugby and first XV head coach, Ryan Strud­wick, is un­der no il­lu­sions as to the chal­lenge that awaits his team dur­ing the FNB 150th Rugby Fes­ti­val.

“It’s go­ing to be tough,” Strud­wick said yes­ter­day, ahead of the team’s open­ing match at 3.30 pm to­day.

“We have only played one full game, but we are feel­ing con­fi­dent, although not hav­ing played tough op­po­si­tion we don’t know fully what to ex­pect.

“But the rusti­ness will come out. The play­ers are still get­ting to know each other and there have been some po­si­tional changes, which can be a prob­lem, but we are get­ting bet­ter as we go along,” said the former Sharks for­ward.

Strud­wick said Col­lege have the right stuff in first XV cap­tain and head pre­fect Seko Buthelezi.

“Seko is the ob­vi­ous choice … As head pre­fect, he com­mands much re­spect on and off the field and the play­ers re­spect him while en­joy­ing his com­pany at the same time.”

In his sec­ond sea­son as Mar­itzburg Col­lege first XV head coach, Strud­wick has a distin­guished track record.

The lock/loose for­ward cap­tained Lon­don Ir­ish in the English Pre­mier League, played for the pres­ti­gious Bar­bar­ians XV, turned out for the Sharks, rep­re­sented Lon­don Har­lequins and had a sea­son with Con­naught in Ire­land.

“Yes, in my youth,” chuck­led the man who was schooled at Wart­burg in the Mid­lands.

Strud­wick had great success in coach­ing Col­lege Rovers to the Na­tional Club Cham­pi­onship ti­tle and said the frus­tra­tion in coach­ing at age-group level was the as­pect of build­ing a side over a num­ber of years.

“You only have a rel­a­tively short time with school to Col­lege so it should be a great con­test,” said Strud­wick.

Gold­stones, so long a happy hunt­ing ground for Mar­itzburg Col­lege and its the­atre of dreams, is in splen­did con­di­tion thanks to the hard work of Dave Veitch and his staff, but it will of­fer no es­cape for sides that are not on top of their game dur­ing the matches over the next five days.

The Mar­itzburg Col­lege 150th Rugby Fes­ti­val has South African school­boy rugby giants Afrikaans Hoër Se­un­skool (Affies), Hoërskool Mon­u­ment (Mon­nas) of Krugers­dorp, Grey (Port Elizabeth), Queens Col­lege ( Queen­stown), Dale Col­lege (King Williamstown), Ron­de­bosch Boys’ High (Cape Town), Hoërskool No­ord-Kaap (Kim­ber­ley), Jeppe High of Jo­han­nes­burg), Mar­itzburg Col­lege and the KZN Devel­op­ment XV.

The hosts play ris­ing school pow­er­house Hoërskool No­ord-Kaap of Kim­ber­ley on Mon­day at 2.10 pm; be­fore tak­ing on old foes Queens Col­lege, on Wed­nes­day at 2.20 pm.

“No­ord-Kaap is a new one for us, but for­tu­nately we will be able to see them play on Satur­day and we will def­i­nitely be analysing them, tak­ing notes on how they play,” said the Col­lege head coach.

“They have been pro­duc­ing great rugby play­ers so it’s go­ing to be an in­ter­est­ing game.” And what about Queens on Wed­nes­day? “I think we will prob­a­bly go into that game as the favourites, but ev­ery match is a new page and we must en­sure we are ready for them.”

The coach said Col­lege had no stand­out play­ers. “We are not a team of su­per­stars, but we are well balanced and need to pull to­gether to get the right re­sults. We have got the char­ac­ter to do that.”

Be­fore the Mar­itzburg Col­lege clash with Grey High School, there is the in­trigu­ing prospect of No­ord-Kaap up against Jo­han­nes­burg’s Jeppe High School for Boys, which kicks off the fes­ti­val at 10.10 am. Next, the KZN Devel­op­ment XV take on Ron­de­bosch at 11.30 am.

Next up to­day is the in­trigu­ing face-off be­tween Queens and the tra­di­tion­ally pow­er­ful Affies line-up at 12.50 pm be­fore Dale tackle Mon­nas in what should be a great game at 2.10 pm. The clash pre­cedes the much-an­tic­i­pated mus­cle-up be­tween Col­lege and Grey High at 3.30 pm.

PHOTO: IAN CARBUTT

Mar­itzburg Col­lege first-team play­ers Jacques Con­radie and Vuyo Khathide will be look­ing for vic­tory over Grey High School when the FNB 150th Rugby Fes­ti­val gets un­der way to­day.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

In an in­ter­na­tional rugby ca­reer span­ning 11 sea­sons, A.D. ‘Butch’ James (1997) earned 42 caps for the Spring­boks. He played a key role in the fi­nal of the 2007 Rugby World Cup against Eng­land when his com­po­sure and abil­ity to blunt the im­pact of his op­po­site num­ber, Jonny Wilkin­son, helped South Africa to a 15-6 win.

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

Hav­ing started his rugby ref­er­ee­ing ca­reer on Col­lege’s outer fields as an un­der-14 boy about two decades ear­lier, Craig Jou­bert (1995) earned the ul­ti­mate ac­co­lade in 2011 when he was ap­pointed to ref­eree the Rugby World Cup fi­nal be­tween the All Blacks and France.

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